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Survey: more pay raises and bonuses in the works for drivers

April 2, 2018
Annual HireRight poll indicates driver recruiting and retention remain "top challenges."

An annual workforce survey of 1,000 transportation managers conducted by human resources firm HireRight finds that 69% cited recruiting qualified drivers as a :top challenge” while 54% said driver retention is also becoming a major issue.

As a result, to attracting driver candidates and retain them longer-term, the poll found managers are planning to rely on four major tactics: increasing follow-up communication (54%); employing non-monetary tactics such as driver appreciation events (53%); increasing pay (42%); and using performance-based bonuses (40%).

According to HireRight’s 2018 Transportation Spotlight report, those moves are designed to address the four main reasons cited as to why truck drivers leave their current employers: to make more money (52%); to spend more time at home (41%); for better benefits (27%); because the job was not what they expected (26%).

Several separate surveys noted that truck driver pay is has increased – and rather sharply at that – over the last year or so.

The American Trucking Associations (ATA) reported in its latest Driver Compensation Study, the median 2017 salary for a TL driver working a national, irregular route topped $53,000; a $7,000 or 15% increase from ATA’s last survey, which highlighted 2013 pay levels. Meanwhile, median private fleet driver pay jumped to $86,000 from $73,000 over the same four-year span, the trade group noted – a gain of nearly 18% – with median pay for all types of truck drivers combined up 11% compared to ATA’s 2013 driver pay data.

HireRight’s survey also touched on some of the broader strategies industry executives are implementing to help alleviate the driver shortage.

Respondents said they plan to invest in developing retention programs (40%) as well as training and development programs (40%) in 2018. Specifically, among companies with more than 2,500 employees, 61% of respondents plan to invest in retention programs, and 58% plan to invest in training and development. That includes efforts to “improve the candidate experience” from application through onboarding (43%). And in a further effort to retain new talent, 38% of respondents said they are introducing new hires to company executives, 32% are implementing longer orientation and training periods, and 28% are appointing driver liaisons or mentors.

It’s worthy to note that sign-on bonuses are back as a recruiting/retention tool and in a huge way at that. According to findings recently released by the National Transportation Institute (NTI), sign-on bonuses are “bigger than ever” even though “no one likes them.”

Per NTI’s analysis, median sign‐on bonuses for dry van drivers are up 280% over Feb. 2017, while refrigerated carriers – who are the “least likely” carriers to deploy sign‐on bonuses, the firm noted – raised their median bonus 300%.

Flatbeds carriers, who were enjoying improved freight rates in 2017 to start with, “walked away with the trophy” in terms of sign-on bonus activity, said Gordon Klemp, NTI’s principal – posting a year‐over‐year median sign‐on bonus increase of 400%.

“Do carriers who use them hire drivers who are most likely to be high turnover candidates in their new fleets? The answer is yes; they do have turnover at a higher rate than fleet averages,” Klemp added. “However, the saying, ‘any port in a storm’ is a truism and storm clouds are apparent in driver recruiting.”

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